CASPER, Wyo. — Noelle Sym delivered four children in front of a room full of junior high students.
At each stage of the birth, her nurses paused to explain exactly what was happening. After the first delivery, they held up the placenta for the students to see. Then they re-attached the umbilical cord, removed Sym’s abdomen and loaded the baby back inside her.
Sym is one of four patient simulators at the UWMC Clinical Development Center, a new training lab created through a partnership between Wyoming Medical Center and the University of Wyoming. The center, which cost $500,000 to develop, allows health care providers and medical students to practice their skills in a controlled setting.
“Patient safety is the biggest advantage of a simulation lab,” said Davina Drazick, a registered nurse and educator for the hospital.
The hospital demonstrated the new simulators for a group of students from Centennial Junior High on Wednesday. While one group watched Noelle Sym give birth, others saw providers treat two sick babies and a man who went into cardiac arrest.
The simulators look similar to mannequins but are considerably more sophisticated. They blink their eyes, turn blue when they’re not getting enough oxygen and cry out when they’re in pain. Noelle Sym can demand an epidural in English or Spanish and even leak fluid when her water breaks.
Providers who’ve used the center say the simulators can do a good job of mimicking actual medical scenarios. Performing CPR on a simulator isn’t all that different from the real thing, said nurse and clinical educator Mindy Walden.
“His ribs don’t break, but other than that, it is close,” she said after helping a group of students attempt to resuscitate one patient simulator.
The simulators also provide feedback that human patients can’t.
Marty Sym, a simulator designed to emulate a critically ill man, will recognize whether he’s being properly ventilated and can score providers on their CPR skills. Video cameras record the action so the training scenarios can be reviewed later.
“A real patient isn’t going to tell you if you are doing good (chest) compressions,” Walden said.
The simulators are valuable because they provide hands-on training for rare scenarios, Drazick said. That way, medical providers have some practical experience before they encounter certain medical situations with actual patients.
“You don’t always have the opportunity to see every clinical situation as a student,” she said. “This gives you that opportunity.”